Israel Folau has been slammed by former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons for saying that he wants an apology from Rugby Australia.
Folau’s legal challenge against Rugby Australia began on Friday, when the two parties met at Fair Work Australia for a futile conciliation session.
The former Wallabies star was sacked from his $5 million contract for posting homophobic and transphobic comments on social media during April, with the dispute seemingly headed to the Federal Court. Folau is seeking a $10 million payout and also claimed he was “hoping for an apology”.
FitzSimons poured scorn on Folau, who also posted anti-gay comments on social media last year.
“Israel Folau, in your demand for an apology … mate. Get in tight,” FitzSimons said on Sports Sunday.
“Last year, you put up a post that caused rugby to bleed for three weeks. It was a homophobic slur, biblically-based, whatever.
“Last year you put it up, three weeks of ugly headlines, teams lose; supporters, sponsors running for the exits. It was a disaster. Despite that, rugby signed you up for four by $1 million, for four years.
“A year later, here we are in April of this year, you put up just about exactly the same post. You put your right index finger above it, about to send.
“You know – and you’ve acknowledged this – that the moment you press send, you put rugby, your teammates, your teams, through exactly the same agony as last year. You pressed send.
“What happened? We’ve been engulfed by two months of this nonsense, this disaster. Millions of dollars being bled from rugby, sponsors [running] for the exits, members turning away.
“And you think rugby owes you an apology? In the words of the late [journalist] Peter Frilingos, that’ll do me. Unbelievable.”
Folau demands an apology after being branded a ‘liar’
Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne was also left bemused by Folau’s apology request.
“I’m not sure exactly what we’re apologising for, I don’t quite understand that request,” Clyne told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’ve provided a player with opportunities and asked him to adhere to a contract and a generous one at that. Israel was not sacked for his religion, he was sacked for a breach of his contract.”
FitzSimons also took aim at Folau’s interview with former Wallabies coach Alan Jones on Sky News, which he suggested was virtually scripted. Jones is a fierce backer of Folau.
“Give me a break. It was ridiculous,” FitzSimons said.
Folau: ‘I felt backed into a corner’
Nine sports reporter Neil Breen accused Folau – who has moved between the NRL, AFL and rugby for lucrative contracts – of being money-hungry. Folau and the Australian Christian Lobby raised more than $2 million for his legal challenge in little over 48 hours, promoting it as a campaign for freedom of speech and religious expression.
“If you ask me, it’s all about money,” Breen said on Sports Sunday.
“Israel Folau has been about money since he was 18 years of age. It’s all about money and he’s somehow been able to get money out of people who think it’s about something else.
“So ugly and so terrible for rugby.
“I looked around Sydney yesterday, and Brisbane; local club rugby, the games that were going on. That’s what rugby’s about.
“It’s about going to your local club, it’s about supporting rugby, it’s about people volunteering their time and giving their energy and efforts for a safe place for kids and people to play rugby. Male and female.
“Instead, the game’s being robbed blind by a bloke they should never have signed in the first place.”